Transit Briefs: CapMetro, SEPTA

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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A new Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) station opens at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. Also, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) rolls out a new multi-rider feature for Key card holders.

CapMetro

CapMetro’s new $60 million McKalla Station opened this past weekend at Q2 Stadium, home of the Major League Soccer club, Austin FC, according to a KUT report.

Funded partly by the voter-approved Project Connect transit expansion, the new station is “designed to handle waves of soccer fans pouring out of the approximately 20,500-capacity sports facility,” according to the report.

(CapMetro Rendering of Project Connect)

The opening of the CapMetro Rail (formerly MetroRail) station on Saturday morning occurred simultaneously as long-awaited “quiet zones” took effect at Kramer Lane, Rutland Drive, Baker Lane and Rundberg Lane, KUT reports.

“Those four crossings have been upgraded to meet more rigorous federal safety standards. Now, trains won’t be required to blast ear-piercing warning sounds that can be heard inside buildings blocks away,” according to the report.

According to the report, CapMetro was rushing to get McKalla Station up and running in time for Austin FC’s first home match of the season on Saturday, “a target set months ago after previous delays.” Earlier last week, KUT reports, workers were still installing underground utilities and laying pavement for a 350-foot-long bus stop on Delta Drive right next to the station on the east side of Q2.

Finishing touches, such as landscaping and a mural to be installed by Austin artist J Muzcaz, are slated to be completed by April or May.

Additionally, KUT reports, a park-and-ride planned for Q2 Stadium’s East Lot has not been set up. Parking spaces will be available to people taking the train on days when no events are happening at the stadium, according to the report.

McKalla Station has two sets of train tracks. The second set of rails “allows CapMetro to have trains ready to go in both directions after events at Q2. The first fans out of the stadium will be able to board a southbound train or northbound train immediately. Capital Metro’s rail yard is about a mile away, which allows for more trains to be sent quickly,” according to the report.

Austin Stadco, the company behind Q2 Stadium, is kicking in $3,650,000 for McKalla Station under an agreement with CapMetro, KUT reports. “Most of that will be paid in installments over 15 years. A big chunk of cash for McKalla—$25 million—comes from the Project Connect property tax increase approved by voters in 2020. The rest of the $60 million comes out of Capital Metro’s budget, which is mostly funded by a 1 percent sales tax,” according to the report.

CapMetro’s agreement with Austin Stadco, KUT reports, included the possibility of a pedestrian tunnel under the tracks or a bridge over them but that plan was abandoned.

According to the report, McKalla Station was supposed to replace Kramer Station, which is less than half a mile away. “But CapMetro hasn’t set a date to close Kramer because of delays in completing another Red Line Stop near the Domain.”

Broadmoor Station—which is slated to have two double-length, covered platforms —had also been scheduled to open this year, but KUT reports, “construction hasn’t even started on the station at a 66-acre mixed-use development called Uptown ATX.”

Broadmoor Station is a public-private partnership, “so the estimated $24 million price tag was planned to be split evenly between Capital Metro and Uptown ATX developer Brandywine Realty Trust,” according to the report.

A year-old filing with the state, first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, suggested Broadmoor Station “could be completed by June 2025.” The cost of the Red Line station, according to the filing, had grown by almost 50% to more than $35 million, according to the KUT report.

SEPTA

Multiple riders can now use the same SEPTA Key card on the same trip across all available methods of travel in the region, according to a WHYY report.

According to the report, the new multi-rider feature, which launched Feb. 26, will allow up to five riders to use the same Key card when taking a SEPTA bus, trolley, the Broad Street Line, the Market-Frankford Line, the Norristown High Speed Line and Regional Rail. “All riders will still be able to transfer twice, and Regional Rail trips will retain the two-hour ride limit. Riders will need to tap on and tap off to get the correct fare,” WHYY reports.

In order to use the feature, the SEPTA Key must have Travel Wallet autoload turned on with a minimum amount of $10, and the card balance also must exceed the trip’s fare. “For example, if five people are taking a one-way bus ride with one card, then the card’s balance must exceed $10,” according to the report.

When using SEPTA Keys, all taps must be within one minute. Taps can be on a bus or trolley validator or a combination of taps on different turnstiles at a station. “However, SEPTA recommends solo riders be mindful not to double tap when the multi-rider feature is turned on,” according to the report.

In September, SEPTA riders gained the ability to pay for fares with their bank cards and smartphone wallets as part of the agency’s plans to upgrade its electronic fare collection system.

In related news, SEPTA received a $317 million grant last week to purchase 200 new railcars for the Market-Frankford Line.

According to the report, the agency is facing a budget shortfall of $240 million when pandemic funds expire in July. Gov. Josh Shapiro introduced a plan to increase public transit funding across the state by 1.75%, which would “generate nearly $1.5 billion over five years.”

If SEPTA can’t secure that funding, service could be cut by 20% and fares could increase by as much as 30% this fall, according to the WHYY report.

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